Barabanki: In the land of progressive farmers, key contestants in race to be first-time MP - Hindustan Times
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Barabanki: In the land of progressive farmers, key contestants in race to be first-time MP

By, Lucknow
May 05, 2024 05:20 AM IST

Barabanki goes to polls on May 20. The Bahujan Samaj Party won the seat in 2004, the Congress in 2009 and the BJP twice in succession in 2014 and 2019.

Two key contestants are vying to change their political profile by becoming an MP for the first time in the Barabanki reserved Lok Sabha constituency, the land of the Ghaghra where progressive farmers are changing the crop pattern from the traditional opium to mentha and indigo for a financial uptick.

Over the years, farming has undergone a sea change in Barabanki. (PICTURE FOR REPRESENTATION)
Over the years, farming has undergone a sea change in Barabanki. (PICTURE FOR REPRESENTATION)

Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Raj Rani Rawat is the former MLA from Kursi (2002) in Barabanki. She entered the fray for the 2024 Lok Sabha poll after a controversial video allegedly linked with the former candidate Upendra Singh Rawat went viral.

Pitted against her is Congress candidate Tanuj Punia, an engineer by qualification who also plans to take forward the legacy of his father, the former bureaucrat and ex-MP Barabanki (2009) PL Punia. Tanuj is supported by the Samajwadi Party, which is in alliance with the Congress.

Barabanki goes to polls on May 20. The Bahujan Samaj Party won the seat in 2004, the Congress in 2009 and the BJP twice in succession in 2014 and 2019.

Raj Rani Rawat’s political career started in 1995 as a block development council member (Nindoora-1). She to contested the 1996 state assembly election as a BJP candidate but lost to the Samajwadi Party’s Hardev Rawat. She became BDC member in 2000 and is currently president of the Barabanki zila panchayat.

Tanuj first contested the state assembly election in 2017 from Zaidpur (Barabanki) and polled over 81,000 votes but lost. He was a candidate again in the 2022 assembly polls but finished third.

Earlier, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Tanuj Punia got the Congress ticket for the Barabanki Lok Sabha seat but could not win against BJP candidate Upendra Singh Rawat. Tanuj is trying his electoral luck for the fourth time now and seeking to become a member of the Lok Sabha.

Barabanki was once known for growing opium, a medicinal herb containing many alkaloids used as an analgesic, anti-tussive and anti-spasmodic in modern medicine.

Over the years, farming here has undergone a sea change. Cultivators have adopted cash crops such as mentha that is used in the food, perfume and medicine sectors for its anti-obesity and anti-inflamatory properties.

Another cash crop indigo, used as a natural dye, is now making inroads in the Barabanki fields.

Barabanki Lok Sabha constituency has a total 23,29,417 voters, including 95,000 new/first-time voters.

They include five lakh Dalit voters, 4.5 lakh Muslims, 2.3 lakh Kurmis, two lakh

Yadavs and about two lakh Brahmins.

It has five assembly segments: Barabanki, Zaidpur, Ramnagar, Kursi and Haidergarh.

Barabanki has seen close fights as well as big margins. The voters think of different issues and caste still rules the roost, say experts.

“There are less voters who think with a leftist or rightist mindset. Their thoughts are more on pragmatic lines. Who will win or lehar kiski hai (whose wave it is), and who is the candidate of our caste is prime when it comes to constituencies such as Barabanki,” said Saroj Kumar Dhal, assistant professor, department of sociology, at University of Lucknow.

In 2019, the BJP’s Upendra Rawat won by a margin of 1,10,140 (9.53 %) votes against his nearest rival RS Rawat of the Samajwadi Party. Tanuj Punia of the Congress was in third position.

In 2014, Priyanka Rawat of the BJP had won the seat by polling 4,54,214 votes while Congress candidate PL Punia, the father of Tanuj Punia, was in second position with 2,42,336 votes. Priyanka Rawat’s winning margin was a big 20%.

Barabanki being a reserved seat is witness to a close caste contest too.

“Jati kahin nahi jati (caste never is out of context) is rightly said for such places where voting percentage is an average 60% and majority of the literate voters either are out of the constituency to earn or abstain from voting otherwise. A major factor is the caste of the candidate,” Dhal said.

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